A Catholic priest was shot dead in the Diocese of Malaybalay in the southern Philippines by still unidentified assailants on the evening of Jan. 24.
Father Rene Regalado was killed while on his way to a seminary in the village of Patpat in the city of Malaybalay.
In a statement, the diocese said about 7:30 p.m., gunshots were heard in the vicinity of Malaybalay Carmel Monastery.
The sound of the gunshots prompted a priest at the monastery to call for police assistance to verify what had happened.
“Father Regalado’s car indicated that he was going back to the St. John XXIII College Seminary where he was staying,” said the diocese in the statement.
“He was in the city in the afternoon, meeting someone whom he did not indicate when he informed his companions at the seminary before he left at around 1 p.m.,” it added.
The diocese said the car that was used by Father Regalado was brought to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Malaybalay and official investigation on the case was ongoing.
“We are waiting for further official findings and details,” the diocese said in its statement.
The diocese asked everyone to offer prayers for the “repose of the soul of Father Regalado, for the consolation of his immediate family and the clergy, for the immediate results of the investigation and that justice will be served to whom it is due.”
Police investigator Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lloren told LiCAS.news that the body of Father Regalado was found about three meters from his vehicle.
“His left eye had contusions as if he was mauled prior to his death,” said the police investigator. “Father Regalado was already dead when we arrived,” he added.
Lloren said investigators discovered that the left arm of the priest was “tied with a white shoe lace.” A .45 caliber pistol with ten unspent bullets and one empty shell was also found in the crime scene.
“The unspent bullets were extracted from the pistol which was also left behind,” said the policeman.
Peace group, priests condemn killing
A group of peace advocates condemned the killing of Father Regalado. The group noted that the priest was killed after a lawyer was also gunned down in the same city more than two weeks ago.
The group Sowing the Seeds of Peace denounced the deaths of Father Regalado and lawyer Winston Intong, who was gunned down in Village 10, Malaybalay, on Jan. 14.
“The killing of a priest, and recently, a lawyer, means the level of impunity in our society has reached a deplorable level,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, convener of Sowing the Seeds of Peace.
“If lawyers and priests get killed that easy, what more of those coming from the marginalized sectors?” said the prelate of the Philippine Independent Church.
“We are expressing our condolences to the Roman Catholic Church in Malaybalay for the loss of a precious life of a man of the cloth and one with them in searching for truth and justice for the killing,” said Bishop Calang.
“Again, we ask, why waste the life of this priest? Do the killers think they can frustrate God’s will and advance their own wider evil scheme by killing this servant of God? They are surely wrong,” said Father priest Angel Cortez, vice director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office of the Franciscans.
“This is an evident product of the culture of impunity that is present in our country,” he added.
Father Regalado was assigned in the town of Lala in Lanao del Norte province. He was still waiting for a new parish assignment and was residing in the seminary.
Father Regalado was ordained priest on Oct. 18, 2007.
He finished his baccalaureate degree in Theology at San Isidro College and his pre-college and college seminary formation at St. John XXIII Pre-College and College Seminaries in Malaybalay.
He finished his theological studies at the St. John Mary Vianney Theological Seminary in Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City.
Father Regalado, tagged as “Paring Bukidnon (Mountain priest),” was known for his endorsement of organic farming and other issues concerning farmers.
Jigger Jerusalem and Mark Saludes contributed to this report